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Next Canada


Sarah Ruba
Lorraine Hartnett, the director at Next Canada's Toronto office, sees things with a new perspective since her daughter was born two years ago. When asked if she would allow her child to get into modelling, the confident, straight-talking Hartnett pauses for a moment and allows the wisdom of motherhood to form her words. "It's not that I was indifferent before, but it gives you a whole different perspective."

"Now that I have my daughter I realize that parents are trusting you with their children. You're not handing over your child, but you need the agent and manager to take very, very good care."

Then, returning to the question of her own daughter's involvement, Hartnett says forthrightly, "If she wanted to I would encourage it and make sure she had the right management... but because I know the industry I would step in there."

Hartnett has long been part of the Toronto industry. Along with Corey Mann, she was lured away from Giovanni Models when Next opened in Toronto five years ago. Prior to that Hartnett and Mann operated a small boutique agency called Tyler Models, which folded its roster into Giovanni's in 1997.

Under the Hartnett's direction, Next has opened itself to a variety of looks. "In the past there may have been a specific type of girl that was scouted, but now we take on body girls, we take on commercial girls, we take on image girls..."

The result is an agency that has a broad range of talent from hot new faces to established stars, and everything in between.

On the new side is 20-year-old Sarah Ruba (another Corey Mann discovery), whom Hartnett refers to as "inevitable."

Since adding modelling to her repertoire in the spring, the Hamilton-area brunette has booked solidly, appearing in scores of magazines worldwide while maintaining her focus on her true passion, music.

She makes frequent trips to New York to work on her latest studio project - an album for her band Birdseyeingit - while balancing another musical project (an electronic collective called Little Clever) she has in the works. She can often be found performing in and around Toronto.

Hartnett defines her thusly: "Sarah Ruba is unique, because she's more than a model - she's a personality. She is the epitome of an 'it-girl'."

Another hot new face (another Corey Mann discovery) is Els. The 14-year-old Vancouverite has just begun her career and is already exploring London and Paris with the support of the network (and the company of her mother).

Hartnett says Next Canada is a strong mother agency, but being part of a such a powerful international network can jumpstart a model like Els' career. "The money to be made in this industry is in other markets. We try to develop models quickly, and don't necessarily keep them in Canada for six months to a year before a first trip.

"New York and Paris and even London are infamous for taking a girl from polaroids and getting her into the pages of a high-fashion magazine.

"We could develop a girl here easily getting her into the pages of Highrise, Fashion, Flare, Lush... but bigger things happen more quickly in larger fashion markets. If she's ready to go and the timing's right, we can do it on a direct-booking basis, sending her to New York, then promoting her overseas.

"Like Els: she lives in Vancouver, she shot fashion18. But there's no point in her staying in Toronto. We are marketing her as a hot new face for next season on an international level."